J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) towards Sunset 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) towards Sunset 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 28
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on white wove paper, 193 x 281 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI – 28’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This view to the south-east shows the entrance façade and campanile of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on its island across the Bacino, with rosy tints and strong shadows evoking the approach of sunset. Compare a much less resolved contemporary daytime study of the same subject (Tate D32148; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 11). The viewpoint is apparently from near the water level, and the loose initial pencil work was likely done from outside the Grand Canal frontage of the Hotel Europa (the Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying; see the Introduction to this subsection. Colour could have been applied while observing the sunset effect from his elevated bedroom, from which the church was also visible (see Tate D32219; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34). Ian Warrell has described the treatment of light as ‘extraordinarily subtle, confirming that the watercolour was painted direct from nature’.1
Albeit with a tighter focus on the church, this study acts fortuitously as a sunset counterpart to the well-known 1819 watercolour from the same angle in the Como and Venice sketchbook (Tate D15254; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 4), with its limpid contre-jour early morning light.2 A similar evening mood suffuses an 1840 view of the Dogana and Santa Maria Salute (Tate D32166; Tate CCCXVI 29), which is comparable to another morning subject in the 1819 sketchbook (Tate D15256; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 6). Like the earlier pages, the two 1840 sheets form an approximate panorama, resolved in the 1842 painting The Dogano, San Giorgio, Citella, from the Steps of the Europa (Tate N00372).3 The present work and D32166 were paired in the early National Gallery display selected from the Turner Bequest; writing in 1857, John Ruskin noted they were ‘used by him as materials in his late Venetian paintings’.4
Andrew Wilton has compared the ‘handling’ of Tate D32140 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 3),5 a colour study of campanili and rooftops likely made directly from Turner’s window; it features similar brick reds and violets,6 and touches of gouache. Lindsay Stainton has likened the visual effect of the ‘flat washes of blue, buff and brick-red’ here evoking ‘forms arranged parallel to the picture surface’ in ‘a pattern of verticals, joining the form to its reflection’ to ‘the watercolours of [Paul] Cézanne’7 (1839–1906); compare the discrete touches of the late Montaigne San Victoire (Tate N05303). Whatever its unwitting abstract qualities, Stainton placed it ‘among the most brilliant of Turner’s Venetian studies of reflected light and colour’,8 and Anne Lyles has noted its ‘exquisite colour harmonies ranging from yellows and pinks to complementary blues and orange-red’.9
Warrell has described how the ‘fluent handling of washes of watercolour blends the shimmering architectural surface with the rippling water of the lagoon, and in the process seems to draw the reflection down across the paper’.10 In concentrating on these aspects Turner seems to have been less concerned with architectural accuracy, and the portico-like entrance front with its four columns and corresponding reflection seems to have drifted too high relative to the less ornate monastery ranges flanking it.11 Although there are numerous subtle differences of placement and orientation,12 the composition and treatment are comparable to those developed to a more finished state in a contemporary watercolour on a similar scale,13 where the waterline is established more coherently (private collection).14 See also a much looser contemporary study of the church from the north at dusk (Tate D32161; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 24). In relation to the three sheets, Warrell has characterised Turner ‘choosing the moment when the bricks acquire a pink radiance, like the inside of a conch shell’,15 while the strong green used for the water in each case suggests they are ‘from the same painting session’.16
As printed in the main text of the 1976 Copenhagen exhibition catalogue, the entry for no.76 gave details of Tate D32145 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 8);17 however, this was amended or corrected on a separate printed slip18 to refer to the present work, which is the one shown in the reproduction captioned ‘Katalog nr. 76’.19
Warrell 2003, p.198.
See ibid.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.245–6 no.396, pl.400 (colour).
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.296.
Wilton 1975, p.136.
See Warrell 2003, p.198.
Stainton 1985, p.27.
Ibid., p.62.
Lyles 1992, p.82.
Warrell 1993, p.307, and 1994, p.220.
See Warrell 2003, pp.198–9.
Ibid., p.199.
See Warrell 1993, p.307, and Warrell 1994, p.220.
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.216 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.197.
Ibid., p.204.
Loshak and Wilton 1976, p.72.
Tipped in at back of copy in Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain.
Ibid., p.73.
Technical notes:
This is one of seven 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on ‘sheets of white paper probably made [under the name] Charles Ansell.1 These measure approximately 19.8 x 28.4 cm (indicating that they were folded and torn into eight pieces from an imperial sheet)’:2 Tate D32140, D32165, D32179, D35882, D35949, D36192 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 3, 28, 42, CCCLXIV 43, 106, 334); see also San Giorgio Maggiore from the Hotel Europa, at the Entrance to the Grand Canal (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).3 Warrell has noted that an ‘eighth sheet’, Tate D32166 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 29), ‘seems to relate to this group, both technically and in terms of its size, but this has been identified by [paper conservator] Peter Bower as paper produced by Bally, Ellen and Steart’.4
Albeit Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.81, notes that the Muggeridge family had taken over after 1820, still using the ‘C Ansell’ watermark.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 1) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also p.138.
Not in Wilton 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.148 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259; see Bower 1999, pp.105–7 under no.59.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘34’ towards top right, ‘17’ right of centre, and ‘28’ below centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVI – 28’ towards bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) towards Sunset 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-church-of-san-giorgio-maggiore-venice-across-the-bacino-r1197017, accessed 19 May 2022.